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an online version of the magazine Winter 2007

True Foundations

When the hammering stops, our quest will just begin.


By Dean/CEO Edward D. Miller, M.D.

climbing a DNA strand

The sound of construction echoes throughout our East Baltimore campus. We are awash in new buildings taking shape.

Just outside my office, a seven-story structure in the city’s eastside biopark is now under roof. The Institute for Basic Biomedical Sciences (IBBS) will lease nearly a third of this 270,000-square-foot facility next year.

From a cavernous hole along Orleans Street, cranes are lifting steel beams into place for a cardiovascular and critical care tower and the new children’s hospital—nearly 1.6 million square feet in all. We’ll move 65 percent of our patients into these state-of-the-art quarters and, finally, everyone at Hopkins Hospital will have a private room!

At Orleans and Broadway, we’re turning a surface parking lot into a striking addition to the Wilmer Eye Institute—a soaring atrium, much-needed research floors, and ground-level clinical space.

Behind the Cooley Center, you can see crews at work on a new Education Building, with special features tailored to meet the needs of a totally re-engineered medical school curriculum that will center on the interplay of genetics and diseases in individuals.

By the time the hammering stops, we’ll have achieved our goal: a campus of modern buildings that truly supports and enhances our tripartite mission.

But let’s not get smug. This accomplishment marks the beginning, not the end, of our quest.

Now we must make the most of what we have as we enter what could be a transformational era of genetic-based biomedicine.

The big question in my mind is this: How do we position Hopkins Medicine so we remain preeminent in medical science and patient care over the coming decades?

We’ve already started down this road in medical education with the sweeping curriculum reform we’re preparing. Before the new Education Building opens, though, we’ve got lots of work to do, such as finding ways to free up the faculty so they have more time to teach this new approach to medicine and interact with students. We also must be sure the faculty knows how to use the teaching tools and sophisticated equipment we’re incorporating.

In the new clinical towers, we’ll have large patient rooms and operating rooms, superior air handling, a central sterile supply system and the technology to markedly improve patient safety and patient care.

That’s all great. But these are huge structures. Communications could become a big impediment if we don’t re-think how caregivers keep in contact with one another and coordinate their activities within a much larger, fully wireless hospital complex.

Our physician order entry system (POE) will be fully in place by then, giving doctors and nurses access to an enormous amount of information and order sets. How do we make sure that data leads to improved patient care?

We’re also spending considerable energy analyzing the processes of every department to find out what’s not working. This should save time, eliminate wasted effort, improve safety, and streamline care from the patient’s perspective.

Meanwhile, I’ve asked Chi Dang, vice dean for research, to pull together some institutional “thought leaders” and develop a strategic plan for all the scientific inquiry that takes place here.
Where should we put our focus now? Which initiatives are likely to make the most profound impact on health care and medicine? How can we marshal our finite resources most effectively to accelerate bench to bedside results? Where are the holes?

This strategic plan will cut across the entire university because that’s the direction science—including the National Institutes of Health—is moving.

Look at our new Brain Sciences Institute, which encompasses researchers from 14 departments. Geneticists are interacting with engineers, imaging experts, psychiatrists, and neuroscientists. Campus and department silos are imploding as similar collaborative efforts emerge, such as the NIH-funded Diabetes Research and Training Center with basic scientists and clinicians from four different Hopkins schools.

All of them rely heavily on shared, core resources such as IBBS’ High Throughput Biology (HiT) Center, which combines technologies from a vast array of disciplines to give researchers faster answers to their hypotheses and thus faster ways to develop treatments.

Our challenge is to find the best ways to ratchet up our performance and get the most out of these modern physical structures and technology resources that are the envy of other institutions. Hopkins Medicine must prepare to be on the cutting edge of tomorrow’s biomedical  revolution.

 High Time for HiCy?
 Like Something From Nothing
 Managing the Menagerie
 Circling the Dome
 Medical Rounds
 Annals of Hopkins
Class Notes
 Where Are They Now?
 Learning Curve
Johns Hopkins Medicine

© The Johns Hopkins University 2008